NEWS: Thanks to Shir Hever for interviewing me at Real News Network about my writings on the Israeli medical scandal concerning Yemenite children. I’d be grateful if you’d watch (below) and pass it on to others via social media and e-mail. Thanks as well to Dr. Alice Rothschild, who wrote an excellent post on the same subject, adding her important perspective as a physician.
When you’ve blogged as long as I have (since 2003), you think you’ve seen everything. Until tonight, I never in my wildest dreams imagined that Israel as a state could become anti-Semitic. Of course, this notion violates just about every sacred principle of Zionism, which purports to be a haven for Jews around the world from persecution and anti-Semitism. No longer. With today’s “piling on” by the Israeli foreign ministry onto Hungary’s right-wing government’s anti-Semitic campaign against George Soros, Israel has sunk to the dregs.
Of course, many of us knew that David Ben Gurion and major elements of the Zionist movement as a whole had no compunction about collaborating with Jew-haters like Hitler if it benefited the Yishuv. The fate of state become more important than the fate of individual Jews. This seems to be the same logic Netanyahu has adopted vis-à-vis Hungary.
The Israeli prime minister will be visiting Hungary and other central European states later this month. But there has been a flurry of controversy regarding Viktor Orban’s fulsome praise of Admiral Horthy, the Nazi-era fascist leader of Hungary responsible for shipping 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. Orban said of the World War II dictator:
“The fact that history did not bury us after World War I was thanks to a number of extraordinary statesmen like the regent, Miklos Horthy. This fact cannot be contradicted by mentioning the unfortunate role of Hungary during World War II.”
Keep in mind, the Hungarian regent was someone who joined Nazi Germany in declaring war on the United States the day after the Pearl Harbor attack. He only escaped the hangman’s noose after the War by switching sides and helping the Allies fight Communists.
Like Donald Trump and far-right leaders everywhere, Orban falsifies history with ease. Here he glosses over the fact that whatever role Horthy played in Hungary’s post World War I history, he destroyed that legacy by becoming a Nazi stooge. And there is no way to put lipstick on a pig or a mass murderer. Unless of course you’re Orban, Trump or any number of other European alt-right leaders.
Orban is stirring up a fetid stew of anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant hysteria as he prepares for national elections in 2018. His chief campaign consultant is longtime GOP campaign consultant Arthur Finkelstein. Finkelstein has another illustrious far-right client, Netanyahu himself. Thus, we see the a despicable nexus of an American Jew and Israeli prime minister getting paid off in cash (in Finkelstein’s case) or commerce (Netanyahu) by a neo-Nazi. Who would have thought this possible?
Just as Donald Trump traveled to Poland to burnish his alliance with that nation’s far-right Catholic government, so Bibi seeks out alliances with like-minded tyrants around the world (Saudi Arabia, Poland, and now Hungary) who can validate his own brand of Israeli-Jewish racial supremacism.
Let’s go back to the beginning: one of the most troubling elements of Orban’s campaign involves a full-frontal assault on international financier, George Soros. Soros has transferred hundreds of millions of his profits on world financial markets to his world-wide civil society network, Open Society. It is dedicated to building democracy, human rights and strong civic values in former Communist states and other places (including Israel) where democracy is endangered.
Orban, besides being anti-Semitic, is a petty tyrant who’s run roughshod over Hungarian press freedoms, its judicial system, and civil rights. He took the lead among European leaders in denouncing the wave of Muslim refugees which washed over Europe in the past few years due to unrest in the Middle East. He was the first to build a wall to keep them out. He was the first to put immigrants into metal containers much like the cattle cars which took Hungary’s Jews to the gas chambers.
Now he seeks to turn George Soros into an anti-Semitic caricature of world capitalism sucking the blood from poor helpless Hungarians. An even more painful irony is that Orban in his days as a liberal student studied in a Soros-funded democracy studies program at Oxford University.
In recent days, the government has begun a poster campaign featuring a smiling Soros under the caption: “Don’t let him have the last laugh.” This follows directly in the tradition of Der Stürmer, which featured Jewish rats gnawing at the bones of Europe, among other images. On some of the posters, Hungarians have added graffiti calling Soros a “stinking Jew.”
In response, Israel’s ambassador to Hungary released a strong statement criticizing the attacks on Soros. He wrote that:
“The campaign not only evokes sad memories but also sows hatred and fear. It’s our moral responsibility to raise a voice and call on the relevant authorities to exert their power and put an end to this cycle.”
But when the Likud ultra-nationalists got wind of this temporizing, they demanded a far harsher response which directly assaulted Soros, in line with Orban’s own approach. That resulted in this bit of propaganda which could’ve emanated from Goebbels himself in an earlier era:
“In no way was the [earlier MFA] statement meant to delegitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself.”
A little context is in order: Soros’ philanthropy does include giving to Israeli and Palestinian NGOs promoting human rights and civil liberties. Much of his philanthropy is channeled through the New Israel Fund, an entity hated by the Israeli right because some of its grantees oppose the Occupation and expose abuses of Israeli soldiers against Palestinians. The far-right also claims that Soros supports BDS, though none of the groups to which he’s donated have expressed such support. Nor has he.
The truth is that Soros is essentially a liberal Zionist. He doesn’t support a one-state solution. He doesn’t demonize Israel. He’s not an anti-Zionist. He supports J Street for God’s sake. How much more milquetoast can you get? Yet in today’s Israel, this is a hanging offense.
By comparison, imagine Trump declaring war on U.S. NGOs like the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Black Lives Matter, CodePink, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and others. He rescinds their tax-deductible status. He criminalizes their work. He arrests their board members and staff. This is what has been happening in Israel to similar groups. If you think it can’t happen here, think again. Israel is the pioneer in such matters. It has shown the way in drone warfare, targeted assassinations, and militarized policing. It models how a country can slowly, like a boa constrictor, squeeze the life out of democracy till it’s too late.
Returning to the title of this post, thus in embracing Orban’s anti-Semitic assault on Soros, Israel has thrown in its lot with the Jew-haters. It’s a low I never thought possible. But there you go. We here in America never thought Trump possible. Look where we are now. In the throes of race hate and white supremacy. In a race to the bottom. Only no one quite knows where the bottom is.
Trump Disses Polish Holocaust Memorial
While on the subject of Trump, let’s talk about his own near brush with Holocaust denialism. He spoke before the brutalist-style memorial to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising (not to be confused with the 1943 Jewish uprising). In his speech, he almost vibrated empathically with the pain and suffer of World War II-era Poles. But the pain of Polish Jews martyred in the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising…not so much. He is the first president ever to visit the city without paying homage to the separate ghetto memorial, which was only blocks away from the site of his speech. The junior Trumps were delegated to perform that mission. So while Trump made sure to briefly mention the Jewish uprising, it was a glancing reference at best, and only in the context of the long list of centuries of Polish (i.e. non-Jewish) suffering. He also made no reference to the most infamous memorial to Polish Jews: Auschwitz. It is an extermination camp within Poland and the final resting place for the bones and ashes of the millions of European Jews murdered there. Auschwitz? Not a word.
Donald Trump is the Amazing Vanishing Man when it comes to Jews. No reference to Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day. No outrage during a series of anti-Semitic attacks earlier in his presidency. Israelis, he seems to like. Especially when they’re settlers. Because they fight Muslims, the threatening horde. But Jews, not so much. They’re a pain in the god damn ass. Just like Blacks, Mexicans, gays, and women. All a bunch of trouble.